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Learning To Accept Yourself As An Introvert

Learning To Accept Yourself As An Introvert

If you identify as a natural introvert like myself, you’ll understand the problems and obstacles we sometimes have to face. Whether it is pressure we put on ourselves or stigmas created due to remarks made by others, it can often feel as though we are expected to be different. As though being quieter than our extroverted counterparts is a bad thing. At times it can feel like, due to repetitive demands from others to be a little more outgoing, you are expected to start climbing on tables swinging a microphone around your head shouting all of your daily activities. Or that one might just be me.

Here, Louise Watson of Tiny Buddha explores her journey to accepting herself as the natural introvert that she is:

“What other people think of me is none of my business.” ~Wayne Dyer

“You’re too quiet.”

This comment and others like it have plagued me almost all my life. I don’t know how many times I’ve been told that I needed to come out of my shell, to be livelier, or to talk more. As a child and teenager, I allowed these remarks to hurt me deeply. I was already shy, but I became even more self-conscious as I was constantly aware of people waiting for me to speak. When I did, the response was often, “Wow! Louise said something!” This would make me just want to crawl back into my shell and hide. I became more and more reserved.

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The older I got, the angrier I became. Each time someone told me I was “too quiet,” I wondered what exactly they were hoping to achieve anyway. Did they imagine I had a magic button I could press that would turn me into Miss Showbiz? If only it were that simple, I thought. I felt I should be accepted as I was, but apparently that wasn’t going to happen. There was only one thing for it; I would have to become the extrovert the world wanted me to be, but how?

At 17, I thought I’d found the perfect solution: alcohol. When I was drunk, everyone seemed to like me. I was fun and outgoing; able to talk to anyone with no problems at all. However, it began to depress me that I needed a drink to do this or for anyone to like me.

Another strategy was to attach myself to a more outgoing friend. I did this at school, university, and later when I began to travel a lot in my twenties. Although I didn’t do it consciously, wherever I went I would make friends with someone much louder than me. Then I’d become their little sidekick, going everywhere with them, trying to fit in with all their friends, and even adopting aspects of their personality. Sometimes I just tried faking it.

When I was 24, I began teaching English as a Foreign Language, and a month into my first contract in Japan, I was told my students found me difficult to talk to. I was upset because I thought I had made an effort to be friendly and I didn’t understand what else I could do. After crying all night because once again I wasn’t good enough, I went into work the next day determined to be really lively and talkative. Of course, it didn’t work because everyone could see I was being false. It seemed that I was doomed. I would never be accepted. Being a naturally loud person was the only way to be liked.

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Or maybe not.

Over the years, I’ve spoken to several talkative, extroverted people who’ve been told they’re too loud or that they talk too much. It seems whatever personality you’ve got you’re always going to be “too much” of something for someone.

What really matters is: do you think you need to change?

My shyness has made some areas of my life more difficult. It’s something I’ve been working on all my life and I always will be in order to do all the things I want to do. However, I’ve realized I’m always going to be an introvert, which is not the same thing. I enjoy going out and socializing, but I also enjoy being alone. At work I talk to people all day, every day. I like my job, but as an introvert, I get tired after all that interaction, so later I need some quiet time to “recharge my batteries.” I can overcome my shyness. I can’t overcome my introversion, but actually, I wouldn’t want to because I’m happy being this way.

Be kind to yourself if you decide to change.

While I’m still shy, I no longer worry about it.  When speaking to new people, if something comes out wrong or I get my words mixed up, I just laugh to myself about my nervousness rather telling myself how weird the other person must’ve thought I was.

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In the past I was terrified of any form of public speaking. Now my job is getting up in front of people and talking. After a rocky start in Japan, my students now see me as funny (sometimes!) and confident. So I think I’m doing alright. No, I don’t understand why I can’t just be like that with everyone, but I’m not going to beat myself up about it. I’m doing my best and that’s all I can do.

Don’t be afraid to lose false friends.

When you’re always being told you’re too much of this or not enough of that, it’s easy to start thinking you have to be grateful that anyone is willing to spend time with you. I used to put up with friends who treated me badly because I thought if I stood up for myself, I’d lose their friendship and I’d end up all alone.

Eventually, in my last year teaching abroad, I did stand up for myself and my worst fear came true. I was left completely friendless. And you know what? It was okay. The time alone taught me to enjoy my own company, and gave me the chance to learn more about myself. This has gradually led to me attracting more positive people into my life.

Could your supposed weakness actually be your strength?

I’m a good listener, so friends feel able to talk to me if they have a problem and they know I’m not going to tell anyone. I’m an efficient worker because I just get on with the job. I can empathize with shy students in my class. I don’t force them to speak but leave them alone, knowing that they’ll talk when they feel more comfortable.

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There’s a reason why you were made the way you are. If we were all supposed to be the same, we would be. I’ve stopped trying to make everyone like me and I’ve stopped trying to be something I’m not. As a result, any changes in my character happen naturally as my confidence continues to grow. The “quiet” comments are also now few and far between. When you learn to accept yourself, you’re likely to find that others will accept you too.

But if they don’t, it really doesn’t matter.

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Siobhan Harmer

Siobhan is a passionate writer sharing about motivation and happiness tips on Lifehack.

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Last Updated on March 14, 2019

7 Questions to Ask in a Job Interview That Will Impress the Interviewer

7 Questions to Ask in a Job Interview That Will Impress the Interviewer

Recruiters might hold thousands of interviews in their careers and a lot of them are reporting the same thing—that most candidates play it safe with the questions they ask, or have no questions to ask in a job interview at all.

For job applicants, this approach is crazy! This is a job that you’re going to dedicate a lot of hours to and that might have a huge impact on your future career. Don’t throw away the chance to figure out if the position is perfect for you.

Here are 7 killer questions to ask in a job interview that will both impress your counterpart and give you some really useful insights into whether this job will be a dream … or a nightmare.

1. What are some challenges I might come up against this role?

A lesser candidate might ask, “what does a typical day look like in this role?” While this is a perfectly reasonable question to ask in an interview, focusing on potential challenges takes you much further because it indicates that you already are visualizing yourself in the role.

It’s impressive because it shows that you are not afraid of challenges, and you are prepared to strategize a game plan upfront to make sure you succeed if you get the job.

It can also open up a conversation about how you’ve solved problems in the past which can be a reassuring exercise for both you and the hiring manager.

How it helps you:

If you ask the interviewer to describe a typical day, you may get a vibrant picture of all the lovely things you’ll get to do in this job and all the lovely people you’ll get to do them with.

Asking about potential roadblocks means you hear the other side of the story—dysfunctional teams, internal politics, difficult clients, bootstrap budgets and so on. This can help you decide if you’re up for the challenge or whether, for the sake of your sanity, you should respectfully decline the job offer.

2. What are the qualities of really successful people in this role?

Employers don’t want to hire someone who goes through the motions; they want to hire someone who will excel.

Asking this question shows that you care about success, too. How could they not hire you with a dragon-slayer attitude like that?

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How it helps you:

Interviewers hire people who are great people to work with, but the definition of “great people” differs from person to person.

Does this company hire and promote people with a specific attitude, approach, worth ethic or communication style? Are the most successful people in this role strong extroverts who love to talk and socialize when you are studious and reserved? Does the company reward those who work insane hours when you’re happiest in a more relaxed environment?

If so, then this may not be the right match for you.

Whatever the answer is, you can decide whether you have what it takes for the manager to be happy with your performance in this role. And if the interviewer has no idea what success looks like for this position, this is a sign to proceed with extreme caution.

3. From the research I did on your company, I noticed the culture really supports XYZ. Can you tell me more about that element of the culture and how it impacts this job role?

Of course, you could just ask “what is the culture like here? ” but then you would miss a great opportunity to show that you’ve done your research!

Interviewers give BIG bonus point to those who read up and pay attention, and you’ve just pointed out that (a) you’re diligent in your research (b) you care about the company culture and (c) you’re committed to finding a great cultural fit.

How it helps you:

This question is so useful because it lets you pick an element of the culture that you really care about and that will have the most impact on whether you are happy with the organization.

For example, if training and development is important to you, then you need to know what’s on offer so you don’t end up in a dead-end job with no learning opportunities.

Companies often talk a good talk, and their press releases may be full of shiny CSR initiatives and all the headline-grabbing diversity programs they’re putting in place. This is your opportunity to look under the hood and see if the company lives its values on the ground.

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A company that says it is committed to doing the right thing by customers should not judge success by the number of up-sells an employee makes, for instance. Look for consistency, so you aren’t in for a culture shock after you start.

4. What is the promotion path for this role, and how would my performance on that path be measured?

To be clear, you are not asking when you will get promoted. Don’t go there—it’s presumptuous, and it indicates that you think you are better than the role you have applied for.

A career-minded candidate, on the other hand, usually has a plan that she’s working towards. This question shows you have a great drive toward growth and advancement and an intention to stick with the company beyond your current state.

How it helps you:

One word: hierarchy.

All organizations have levels of work and authority—executives, upper managers, line managers, the workforce, and so on. Understanding the hierarchical structure gives you power, because you can decide if you can work within it and are capable of climbing through its ranks, or whether it will be endlessly frustrating to you.

In a traditional pyramid hierarchy, for example, the people at the bottom tend to have very little autonomy to make decisions. This gets better as you rise up through the pyramid, but even middle managers have little power to create policy; they are more concerned with enforcing the rules the top leaders make.

If having a high degree of autonomy and accountability is important to you, you may do better in a flat hierarchy where work teams can design their own way of achieving the corporate goals.

5. What’s the most important thing the successful candidate could accomplish in their first 3 months/6 months/year?

Of all the questions to ask in a job interview, this one is impressive because it shows that you identify with and want to be a successful performer, and not just an average one.

Here, you’re drilling down into what the company needs, and needs quite urgently, proving that you’re all about adding value to the organization and not just about what’s in it for you.

How it helps you:

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Most job descriptions come with 8, 10 or 12 different job responsibilities and a lot of them with be boilerplate or responsibilities that someone in HR thinks are associated with this role. This question gives you a better sense of which responsibilities are the most important—and they may not be what initially attracted you to the role.

If you like the idea of training juniors, for example, but success is judged purely on your sales figures, then is this really the job you thought you were applying for?

This question will also give you an idea of what kind of learning curve you’re expected to have and whether you’ll get any ramp-up time before getting down to business. If you’re the type of person who likes to jump right in and get things done, for instance, you may not be thrilled to hear that you’re going to spend the first three months shadowing a peer.

6. What do you like about working here?

This simple question is all about building rapport with the interviewer. People like to talk about themselves, and the interviewer will be flattered that you’re interested in her opinions.

Hopefully, you’ll find some great connection points that the two of you share. What similar things drive you head into the office each day? How will you fit into the culture?

How it helps you:

You can learn a lot from this question. Someone who genuinely enjoys his job will be able to list several things they like, and their answers will sound passionate and sincere. If not….well, you might consider that a red flag.

Since you potentially can learn a lot about the company culture from this question, it’s a good idea to figure out upfront what’s important to you. Maybe you’re looking for a hands-off boss who values independent thought and creativity? Maybe you work better in environments that move at a rapid, exciting pace?

Whatever’s important to you, listen carefully and see if you can find any common ground.

7. Based on this interview, do you have any questions or concerns about my qualifications for the role?

What a great closing question to ask in a job interview! It shows that you’re not afraid of feedback—in fact, you are inviting it. Not being able to take criticism is a red flag for employers, who need to know that you’ll act on any “coaching moments” with a good heart.

As a bonus, asking this question shows that you are really interested in the position and wish to clear up anything that may be holding the company back from hiring you.

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How it helps you:

What a devious beast this question is! On the surface, it looks straightforward, but it’s actually giving you four key pieces of information.

First, is the manager capable of giving you feedback when put on the spot like this? Some managers are scared of giving feedback, or don’t think it’s important enough to bother outside of a formal performance appraisal. Do you want to work for a boss like that? How will you improve if no one is telling you what you did wrong?

Second, can the manager give feedback in a constructive way without being too pillowy or too confrontational? It’s unfair to expect the interviewer to have figured out your preferred way of receiving feedback in the space of an interview, but if she come back with a machine-gun fire of shortcomings or one of those corporate feedback “sandwiches” (the doozy slipped between two slices of compliment), then you need to ask yourself, can you work with someone who gives feedback like that?

Third, you get to learn the things the hiring manager is concerned about before you leave the interview. This gives you the chance to make a final, tailored sales pitch so you can convince the interviewer that she should not be worried about those things.

Fourth, you get to learn the things the hiring manager is concerned about period. If turnover is keeping him up at night, then your frequent job hopping might get a lot of additional scrutiny. If he’s facing some issues with conflict or communication, then he might raise concerns regarding your performance in this area.

Listen carefully: the concerns that are being raised about you might actually be a proxy for problems in the wider organization.

Making Your Interview Work for You

Interviews are a two-way street. While it is important to differentiate yourself from every other candidate, understand that convincing the interviewer you’re the right person for the role goes hand-in-hand with figuring out if the job is the right fit for you.

Would you feel happy in a work environment where the people, priorities, culture and management style were completely at odds with the way you work? Didn’t think so!

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Featured photo credit: Amy Hirschi via unsplash.com

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